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Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Hello friends. Below is something that had begun as a personal journal entry for myself that dealt with my own fears and lack of faith about this farm dream that God had planted in our minds. My mom read it and asked to share it on the women’s ministry blog for her church. Since it’s gone public now, I thought I would post it on our personal blog as well. It’s been revised a bit from the original journal entry in order to give those who don’t know our story a chance to catch up to where we are now.

As I re-read it now, the words may sound good, but it’s the follow-through that counts. Please pray that we can have the faith and obedience to follow-through on this dream that (in my mind) seems so far-fetched and out-of-reach. Here’s the entry:

Five months ago, my husband and I took a huge leap of faith. We left our life in North Carolina and moved to the tiny town of Dunlap, TN with a dream to start a farm with some family property. We moved with no job lined up and planned on living in a century-old family house that was falling apart (literally).

Fast forward to now, my husband has secured a job and we are now residing comfortably in the house with a partial new foundation as well as countless other improvements. It has been purely a demonstration of the Lord’s faithfulness and provision that got us to where we are now.

Yet, I still feel like one of the Israelites grumbling about starving to death in the desert after God brought them out of Egypt with such a mighty show of His power.

We’ve cleared the first hurdles of getting here (which included selling our house in North Carolina in only five days) and getting Allen a job (which came from a contact he made 6 years ago while still in college) and seen God help us over those hurdles in amazing ways. But now we have what seems to me the biggest hurdle still to clear: starting what we hope will be a non-profit farm geared toward investing in the lives of youth in our community (through job skills and leadership training) as well as providing food for the poor.

So Allen and have been praying for clarity to come for this vision and how we think God wants us to use this place for His glory. This morning, I was doing my reading in a devotional book called “A Year with God” by Richard Foster and Julia Roller.  In God’s good timing, I began the section on “Guidance.” So I read three day’s worth of entries. Here are some of the things I read:

“Obviously God must guide us in a way that will develop spontaneity in us. The development of character, rather than direction in this, that, and the other matter, must be the primary purpose of the Father. He will guide us, but he won’t override us…The parent must guide in such a manner, and to the degree, that autonomous character, capable of making right decision for itself, is produced. God does the same.” *

“Although there is nothing we can do to force a dream or a vision or God’s still small voice, one way in which we can open ourselves to God’s guidance is by studying the way those in the Bible have heard from God…’we must pray for the faith and for the experiences that would enable us to believe that such things could happen to us. Only then will we be able to recognize, accept, and dwell in them, when they come.’” *

From Jeremiah 1:4-8 about the call of the boy, Jeremiah:

“When the prophet speaks, in response to the call of God, his first word is a word of resistance. The one called for divine work immediately senses his limitations for that work. He tries to beg off, listing his inadequacies.” *

This is where I stand now, I think. I have scales on my eyes. I see only my inadequacies and not God’s abilities. When I think about the idea of running a non-profit farm, I think only of the ways in which I am not equipped or qualified to do it:

  • I have no business skills, very few job skills even since I have been out of the workforce raising kids for almost 5 years
  • I’ve never farmed anything larger than 900 ft2
  • I have no idea how to run a non-profit
  • People will think it’s crazy. It won’t be received well by the community
  • We live in a rural area where most of the youth around us are trying to get away from farming, not into it
  • It’s going to be really hard and take a lot of work

But…

“God tends, it would appear from stories of vocation in Scripture, almost always to call people who are too young, too timid (that’s me:-/), too old, or too immoral. The story is not about the singular virtues of the one being called. The story is about a risk-taking, bold sort of God who reaches in and calls people for divine service, giving them what they need for that service…God equips and stands behind those whom God calls. This is the sort of God who says, in effect, ‘I’m getting ready to change, revolutionize, renovate, and reorient the whole world-and guess who’s going to help me?’” *

So…let’s go for broke. If I continue to live “safely” and comfortably, living a life without risk, at the end of my life, people will say, “She was a good girl. She was involved in church. She was nice to people.” If I continue to live without risk, then I’m living in my own power, not in God’s power. And what does that teach my children? Does it teach them that God is able to do what we ask in His name? Or does it teach them to live without risk because we’re on our own and we have no God who fights our battles for us?

But if we take this big risk, believing that God can and will do something great for His name’s sake, even through someone as afraid and unqualified as me, then I will have made room for God to show Himself great and glorious. Then, at the end of my life people will say “She had faith that God was bigger than she was. She walked in obedience to her calling. Her life showed that God was powerful and merciful in using even the most unqualified. Her life showed that it is not in man’s power, but in God’s power that we do anything.” And this will teach my children that things that are impossible with man are possible with God (Mt. 19:26, Mark 10:27 Luke 18:27). And at the end of my life, I will hear “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Mt. 25:21, Luke 19:17).

So I want to live big because God is big. I want to take a risk, step out of my comfort zone, and expect that God can overcome my inadequacies, overcome the obstacles and opposition we might face and show Himself great and glorious. I want to take a risk and see what He will do in my life and the lives of others for His name’s sake. I want to show my children that when we are obedient to God’s calling, whatever the cost (be it hardship, opposition from friends or family, or merely giving up a life of ease and comfort), God is faithful and He will equip us and walk with us through the hardship and He will be our reward for a life well lived.

“Father God, you who call the last people anyone would expect, here I am. As underqualified as I feel to do anything for your world, help me to do the work for which I was created. Give me the courage to hear and answer your call. Speak, for your servant is listening.” *

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

*Excerpts taken from A Year With God: Living Out the Spiritual Disciplines by Richard J. Foster and Julia L. Roller © 2009 by Renovaré, Inc. p. 146-148

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Overwhelmed

There are days when I am overwhelmed by the current state of our lives. Today was one of those days. We knew making the choice to move here would have its challenges and would not be the easiest road for us to take. But I confess, I can easily lose focus and become overwhelmed by the challenges. This was my battle today and for the past several days. I’ve been swallowed up by the challenges we’re facing. For example:

  • We’re adjusting to a new place. This is difficult whatever the circumstances. We’re still trying to find our routine, still trying to make friends and find community.
  • Allen has still not found a job. He was laid off in May and began networking in Chattanooga even before we moved here. But the fact is, his industry has come to a screeching halt due to the economy. The professional organization he is a part of has job listings on their website and when he graduated from college 4 years ago, there were well over 300 job postings. As of today, there are 29. He is branching out and looking into new areas, but that has its challenges as well.
  • I have begun looking for work. My experience is in the green industry, so it’s not good timing for me either. This is the time of year when everything in the green industry slows down, so no one is hiring. Even if you don’t hold a degree in horticulture, I’m sure you possess enough sense to see that not much grows during the winter. Another challenge is that I’m re-entering the work force after four years of absence. I chose to stay home with our two girls and my heart’s desire is still to be at home with them as much as possible. There are a lot of emotions rolling around between wanting to contribute financially for my family and wanting to be with my kids and be building a firm foundation for them before we set them lose into big, scary world of…public kindergarten.
  • We’re trying to renovate and basically reconstruct a house that has some extensive damage from decades of neglect.  We’ve had several people ask “Wouldn’t it be easier just to tear it down and start over?” And in some ways, it might be easier to tear parts of the house down, but it would probably actually be a lot more expensive to do so. And besides, Allen lives for this kind of thing. He is in his element (too bad there’s no work in construction right now either). I also love the idea of seeing something be reclaimed and restored.
  • Until the house is ready, we’re living in a tiny little apartment. A minor challenge in the scope of things, I know. But we left a house with a huge kitchen and a giant backyard where I could just send the kids out to play. We’ve moved into an apartment with no dishwasher, only a half-oven in a tiny kitchen, that’s overstuffed with what was my grandmother’s furniture, and where “outside” is a parking lot where I definitely cannot send the kids out to play. It’s an adjustment.
  • We’re also trying to start a farm. I might know how to grow a few things in a backyard garden, but running a farm is an entirely different ball game. Neither of us have any experience in this, so we’re trying to scout out available resources, talk to people already in the business, and  learn as much as we can to actually make this happen.
  • And we have some family members here who are being EXTREMELY generous with us. Of course that part is not challenging in itself, only an example of God’s grace and provision, and an example of how fantastic these family members are. The challenge is that I have serious fears that we are overstepping our bounds, wearing out our welcome, and taking advantage of such generosity.

So with all of this going on, I confess I’m a little overwhelmed. I also feel like a bit of a pansy for getting so overwhelmed this early in the game, but maybe this is the most vulnerable time. When you’re at the start line, looking ahead at how far you have to run and how many hills there are between here and the finish line.  And I hate running.

So I think I’ll change my focus. After feeling like I had fallen flat on my face amongst all these obstacles, I went to scripture because I needed a Word from God. Here’s the Word I found:

“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations. “

Psalm 100

This week is Thanksgiving, and part of the purpose of this blog is to record how we see God at work in all that we’re doing and to give testament to his grace, mercy, and provision. We want to give thanks and praise his name for he IS good. So let’s begin:

  • Three years ago, when we bought our first house in Wake Forest, NC we bought a foreclosure at a really good price. There were 14 other offers on the place and we made the winning offer. Had we purchased any other house in any other neighborhood, it would have been much harder to sell and we probably would have lost money on the sale. Provision in ways we couldn’t even have realized at the time.
  • Allen got laid off during a recession when jobs are few and far between. Hold on! That doesn’t sound like provision! Well, this area of provision is still not entirely clear yet, but if Allen had not gotten laid off, it would be life as usual. Or if he had gotten laid off in another economic climate, it might have been much easier for him to just find another similar job and for us to carry on. But the Lord chose to remove Allen from that job at a time when we really had to take a step back and evaluate all our options. We firmly believe that coming here was the right option for us and if Allen hadn’t gotten laid off, we wouldn’t be here right now. So that’s provision.
  • We have support from family and friends going into to this. Those who know us well know that it has been a dream of ours to move here and start a farm and they are excited for us. If we had heard discouragement and caution from all sides, we might really have reconsidered.
  • If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you’ve read the post about the quick sale of our house. After five days on the market, there were two offers on the house and we were under contract with a cash buyer. And we managed to get out with even a tiny profit! Just enough to cover moving expenses. Provision.
  • There was a cheap house available for us in Dunlap. Granted this house might be falling apart (literally), but it’s inexpensive and the 100-year family history in that house is priceless.
  • There was a furnished apartment for us to live in until the house is ready. And the first 6 weeks are free! I can live without a dishwasher for a few months.
  • We have moved into a community that is already familiar to us. I have been coming here for holidays and family visits since I was born. I know the community and at least some of the people and we received a very warm welcome when we got here.
  • The property for the farm is already in my family. We don’t have to take out a loan to buy land. We might have to pay rent to my dad and the other co-owners, but maybe they’ll give us a discount.
  • As I mentioned earlier, several family members have been (and continue to be) extremely generous with us. I have been amazed and grateful at the generosity of my family all my life. But I am especially humbled by it during this season of life. I want to pay them back, but I can’t. That’s the humbling part. I think the Lord uses things like this to humble us and help us to see His amazing grace and mercy. We can never pay it back. We just have to receive it. That’s provision.

So there it is. Yes, there are definitely challenges. But even in those challenges, God is shown for who he is and there is always a reason to “worship him with gladness and come before him with joyful songs.” So, instead of being overwhelmed by my circumstances, I want to be overwhelmed by who God is. I want to be overwhelmed by how he makes himself known in my life and in the world around me. I want to be overwhelmed by His grace, mercy, and provision. So this is my prayer.

Lord Jesus, overwhelm me.

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